Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Time Warner.
Wall Street bankers are threatening to boycott Mario Batali's restaurants after the celebrity chef suggested that they might be comparable to Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
Batali made his comments on Tuesday at a Time magazine panel discussion of the publication’s Person of the Year tradition, and they then began to make the rounds online and on Wall Street the following day, angering a group that claims to be the core customer base of Batali's high-priced restaurants around the globe.
Each panelist was asked for their personal nomination for the distinction, the main criterion for which is influence – positive or negative – on the world. Batali picked author Michael Pollan, but went on to say the following, as quoted by the New York Times:
"But I would have to say that who has had the largest effect on the whole planet without us really paying attention across the board and everywhere is the entire banking industry and their disregard for the people that they’re supposed to be working for… the ways the bankers have kind of toppled the way money is distributed and taken most of it into their hands is as good as Stalin or Hitler and the evil guys…They’re not heroes, but they are people that had a really huge effect on the way the world is operating."
Presumably, the Stalin and Hitler references refer to Time’s awarding of Man of the Year to Stalin in 1942 and Hitler in 1938.
Livid bankers, determined to make Batali feel the wrath of Godwin’s Law, have used the Bloomberg terminal’s DINE restaurant discussion feature to vent frustration at the comments and rally support for a widespread boycott. The Times notes: "Some financial executives who typed out comments on their Bloomberg terminals sounded as if they believed Mr. Batali had attacked them personally."
Bloomberg excerpted an emailed comment from Blant Hurt, an Arkansas businessman who summed up the Wall Street anger at the chef: "He’s insulted a considerable number of his customers at the very time Wall Street is shrinking organically. It’ll be interesting to see where his businesses are in five years. Very, very dumb move on his part." Hurt states that he will "never" eat at another Batali establishment.
Batali has since apologized for his remarks, through a spokeswoman: "I want to apologize for my remarks… It was never my intention to equate our banking industry with Hitler and Stalin, two of the most evil, brutal dictators in modern history.”